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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The First Fleet: Australia's unconscious chosen trauma and its impact on its asylum seeker policies.

This paper will respond to the policies of the current Australian Government on the treatment of asylum seekers who have reached, and who have attempted to reach, Australia by boat. It will also examine the recent Margaret Thatcher Address made by Australia's immediate past Prime Minister Tony Abbot in which he vehemently defended the policies of the Australian Government and urged European governments to adopt similar policies, lest Europe be 'fundamentally weakened'.The hypothesis I will contend is that the failure of Australians past and present to adaptively solve the social problems arising from our colonial past - namely the 'illegal' boat arrival of the first fleet on the shores of Botany Bay, the British assertion of Terra Nullius which dispossessed Aboriginal Australians of their land, and the subsequent stolen generation in which thousands of Aboriginal children were systematically removed from their families, placed in foster or state care virtually guaranteeing their connection to country, culture and language was lost - has created an intertwined 'Chosen Glory/Trauma' which has enmeshed itself in the unconscious large group identify of Australians. I intend to reference the work of Vamik Volkan who has written extensively on the topic of unconscious Chosen Glory and Chosen Trauma to explain the seemingly irrational level of fear held by Australians at the prospect of asylum seekers arriving on Australia's shores by boat. In doing so, I will make the connection between these fears and the morally challenging policies pursued by the Australian government, with the strong mandate of the Australian people, to deter would-be asylum seekers from attempting to come to Australia. In making the case for the intertwined chosen glory/trauma I will examine how from an Indigenous Australian perspective the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 could morph into a chosen trauma and be transmitted through the various generations. Indeed, many indigenous and non-indigenous Australians refer to 26 January as 'Invasion Day'. But I will also examine how the very same historical event is celebrated by the majority of Australians as Australia Day - a national public holiday and celebration of all things 'Australian' - thongs, the beach, barbecues, and usually the Australian Flag which still carries the Union Jack - a solid reminder of our British colonial past, as a celebration of a Chosen Glory. I will contend that this event represents a melting pot of unconscious, unprocessed emotions of guilt, anger, oppression and mourning for all Australians and that the symbol of the boat arriving on the shores of Botany Bay has come to be an object of intense fear (especially fear of what might happen if that boat is not stopped). I will argue that the boat triggers an unconscious terror that the oppressor may suddenly become the oppressed. That our connection to country, culture, language and shared memory may be irrevocably lost at the hands of whoever arrives on our shores by boat. I will further argue that this terror has given rise to some of the most draconian and narcissistic asylum seeker policies developed by a western government in modern times and that these policies are a result of our collective failure to adaptively resolve the social problems arising from the arrival of the first fleet.